So, ehem… do you have any plans for after graduation?
It feels like I’ve gotten this question a lot lately, from people who don’t necessarily know me all that well. These distant friends and relatives all have a hint of anxiety in their eyes as they ask. They know it’s a perfectly reasonable question, but what if I still have no idea? Will I recoil and shrink away? Will I scream and spontaneously combust from the pressure of trying to find my forever fulfillment in the arms of a lofty liberal arts degree? I’m sorry for even asking, their eyes say, but I’m dying to know what the hell you plan to do with that English major.
“I’m planning on going into digital marketing,” I answer, “Hopefully in the Portsmouth area.” The asker looks immensely relieved. They don’t have to comfort me while I sob into my copy of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, or even assure me how young and bright and destined for greatness I am. My elevator pitch sounds normal and surprisingly legitimate. They can just nod while trying to hide their shock that my literature-driven education has led to an actual career path, then loop back around for another drink at the makeshift bar in my living room.
(Note: My parents have hosted a lot of crowded dinner parties recently.)
(Another note: I still haven’t read On the Road by Jack Kerouac.)
My mom recently emailed me this article. It’s a funny, cartoon-illustrated narrative that appeared in the Huffington Post describing “why Gen-Y is so unhappy.” (I was born in 1994, so my peers and I have the honor of falling into both the Gen-Y and Millennial categories, depending on which magazine you’re reading.) It seems like the shared Facebook articles of the world can’t say enough about what “my generation” is looking for in the workplace—flexible hours, health benefits, emotional support, endless attention, a shrine in our name, etc. We’re an unfulfilled, ambitious, half-assed bunch of dreamers, apparently.
So maybe this is why people I barely know ask me about my future as if I’m on the edge of a psychotic break. (Don’t get me wrong, impending real world responsibility does make me feel a little psycho sometimes, but I can usually keep it under control at dinner parties.) They think that I am on the verge of a lifelong, self-involved, Gen-Y quest for happiness. This quest is inarguably doomed, as I will eventually learn that questing for happiness is precisely the thing that keeps happiness at bay, and then I’ll end up an unemployed alcoholic. Or something.
I’m probably putting thoughts into the heads of distant friends and relatives here, but my point is that I’m lucky. I’ve found a post-grad plan that I’m genuinely excited to put into action, and it makes an easy elevator pitch. (Believe me, I’ve had some weird jobs to describe in passing. “Um, I’m doing a lot of sweaty yoga and writing about it. It’s a creative nonfiction project.” Or, “Oh, me? Just writing a young adult fantasy novella.” You don’t realize how convenient the elevator pitch is until it’s gone.)
As young and relatively educated people, we have the great privilege of not needing to know our forever plans right away. We can change our minds. The elevator pitch isn’t written in stone. My parents have always taught me that a job is a job—no matter where you are, you can decide to be happy. It doesn’t come from a job or an apartment or even a shrine in your name at your office’s front door. It comes from you.
So this just took a turn for the incredibly cheesy. But it’s true. Happiness isn’t some magical destination we’ll find after we figure out the perfect career, if that is in fact what Gen-Y’s everywhere are thinking. It’s the whole damn quest.
I’d like to thank my parents for teaching me this lesson early and often, most memorably in the second grade when I spent six months practicing for a piano recital and royally botched the show in thirty seconds. (It’s the journey, honey, not the destination, my mom told me as I sobbed in the backseat of our car.) That shit stuck with me. And now I’m not TIME Magazine’s typical Gen-Y douchebag, hopefully.
(Fellow Gen-Y’s and Millennials—I don’t actually think we’re all douchebags. I’d like to see what our grandparents would have done if they had selfie sticks when they were twelve.)
So yes, I really do enjoy throwing distant relatives off with my practical and decidedly “normal” elevator pitch. But digital marketing isn’t the only field I’ve considered going into since I started college. The list of potential careers isn’t a short one, and I haven’t completely written off some of my other options yet:
Hard-hitting, fast-talking journalist.
Ask the tough questions. Inform the populace. Wrestle with self over the moral ambiguities of presenting the absolute truth. Can you think of anything sexier? (The Newsroom is a fantastic example of said tough questions/moral ambiguity. And if you haven’t heard of the podcast Serial, go listen to it right now. My friend Sean has blown through eight episodes today. It’s intensely addicting and possibly the sexiest piece of investigative journalism that has ever existed.)
Hard-hitting, fast-talking lawyer.
Kind of similar to the journalism thing, now that I think about it, but with more suits. Lots of questions about memory and the passage of time, yelling at key moments, and trying to get to “the truth.” (Can you handle it?) Alcohol problem might be a requirement.
Hard-hitting, fast-talking detective.
I really can’t even entertain this one. I would hands-down be the worst detective ever. But crime shows are fun, am I right?
I’ve never really worked a video camera, but some part of me feels like I could be great at uncovering bizarre cult activity. (Probably inspired by a recent viewing of a Scientology documentary on HBO. Meg would be pissed if I didn’t mention that she was the one who told us to watch it, so I shall here officially state: Meg told us to watch the Scientology documentary. It was nuts. Tom Cruise was there. Also a galactic overlord.)
Best case scenario. But…. money.
This one lost a lot of its appeal when I learned about what med school actually entails and Grey’s Anatomy started doing sing-along episodes.
Jules and I started writing a screenplay two summers ago. It’s a romantic comedy. The goal is that it will be at least as good as most other romantic comedies.
I really just want the Athleta discount, though.
Already halfway there.